This is a guest blog post by Don, who lives and works in England:
I am an expat American who has been a staunch advocate of free-market capitalism for many years, and still mostly believe that. In recent years I have come to believe that the pressures of globalisation have opened certain fissures in the free-market model and have come to better appreciate certain aspects of the welfare state.
I have come to see definate advantages to certain aspects of the welfare state over the past few years as I've come to know the National Health Service (NHS) better and have observed the problems that Americans have with the health care insurance system in the US while being thankful that I don't have to deal with it personally. British historian Tony Judt wrote an essay masquerading as a book review in the New York Review of Books which contains some interesting analysis. It is a review of Robert Reich's recent book: "Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life" (Amazon.com, Amazon.de).
Judt first takes Reich to task for penning a trenchant critique of the current state of the world but wimping out in the end by refusing to identify the villains of the story, but his most interesting point comes late in the book review when Judt writes about the return of fear to the citizenry of Western countries:
Thanks in large measure to the state-provided public services and safety nets incorporated into their postwar systems of governance, the citizens of the advanced countries lost the gnawing sense of insecurity and fear that had dominated and polarized political life from 1914 through the early Fifties and which was largely responsible for the appeal of both fascism and communism in those years.
But we have good reason to believe that this may be about to change. Fear is reemerging as an active ingredient of political life in Western democracies. Fear of terrorism, of course; but also, and perhaps more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of one's daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives but that those in authority have lost control as well, to forces beyond their reach.
I agree. In the case of the US I might add the fear of being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants and the fear of losing one's property due to catastrophic health problems. I think this deserves some discussion.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: Using the United States to Scare Germans